Sensory Processing Disorder
WHAT IS SENSORY PROCESSING?
Sensory Processing is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioural responses. Successful sensory integration is required to participate in an activity, such as riding a bike, reading a book, climbing a playground or eating a sandwich. When sensory signals do not organise into appropriate responses children may experience challenges in everyday activities, such as; dressing, eating/feeding, toileting, play, handwriting, emotional and behavioural regulation, concentration and attention, relationships and social skills.
WHAT IS A SENSORY PROCESSING DISORDER ASSESSMENT?
A Sensory Integration and Praxis Test (SIPT) is used to diagnose Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). The SIPT helps us to understand why some children have difficulty learning or behaving as we expected. The SIPT does not measure intelligence in the usual sense of the word, but it does evaluate some important abilities needed to get along in the world. It does not measure language development, academic achievement, or social behaviour, but it assesses certain aspects of sensory processing or perception that are related to those functions. It also evaluates praxis or the child’s ability to cope with the tangible, physical, two and three-dimensional world.
Sensory integration is that neurological process by which sensations (such as from the skin, eyes, joints, gravity, and movement sensory receptors) are organized for use. Praxis is that ability by which we figure out how to use our hands and body in skilled tasks like playing with toys, using a pencil or fork, building a structure, straightening up a room, or engaging in many occupations. Practic ability includes knowing what to do as well as how to do it. Practic skill is one of the essential aptitudes that enables us “to do” in the world. “Dys” means “difficult” or “disordered”. Sensory integrative dysfunction may result in difficulty with visual perception tasks or in inefficiency in the interpretation of sensations from the body. A dyspraxic child has difficulty using his or her body, including relating to some objects in the environment. A dyspraxic child often has trouble with simply organizing his or her own behaviour.
DOES MY CHILD NEED AN ASSESSMENT?
Common presenting problems that could warrant this assessment include when children seem to not know where their body starts and stops, can be overly clumsy, have muscle force / power that they can’t control or seem to find learning a new activity, like riding scooter, really difficult.
Some issues which can be detected using this assessment include:
- Poor visual discrimination – difficulty perceiving letters and words.
- Poor figure-ground perception – difficulty with things like identifying letters and words on the board, trying to find friends in the playground, or trying to find an item of clothing on a messy floor.
- Poor visual-motor control – difficulty coordinating eyes and hands to form letters and words.
- Poor visual praxis – difficulty initiating planning actions needed to write.
An assessment for Sensory Processing Disorder is performed by an Occupational Therapist. A full written report is emailed in the weeks after the assessment is completed.